Should "NannyCams" Be Allowed in Nursing Homes?

By: Liz Lottmann, Legal Assistant

Should “NannyCams” Be Allowed in Nursing Homes?

With the number of elder abuse and neglect incidences reaching the one-million mark each year,[1] there is a growing concern among families about how to be sure their elder or disabled loved one is being treated well when in a nursing home. Long-term care facilities are often under-staffed, and family members aren’t able to be present 24/7 with their loved ones. One solution is to install a camera in the patient’s room. But most states’ laws don’t allow camera surveillance in assisted living facilities. The states that do allow cameras[2] have many restrictions that must be researched and understood before installing surveillance.

There are many efforts to get cameras into nursing homes. The Family-Controlled Surveillance Camera Project advocates for cameras on a national level. Patient privacy regulations should not prevent a family using video cameras in a long-term care setting, as long as the camera is owned and installed by the nursing home patient and/or his family members. However, this doesn’t mean that nursing homes have to allow them. But if a camera is allowed, the benefit to both the patient and to the facility is that if an accident does occur, video can quickly eliminate any suspicions, or it can prove that an aide or staff member or even the facility’s policy is at fault.

A potential drawback of installing cameras is that it can undermine trust between staff and families. While some professional caregivers may accept heightened supervision, others may resent the sense that a family distrusts them.  Some patients may resent the intrusion on their privacy, and not want their intimate care to be monitored at all.

Another drawback is that busy family members may rely more on camera monitoring than on being there in person as often as possible.

If the law allows monitoring in your state, the decision to install cameras is a very personal one. The vulnerability and the safety of your loved one must be weighed out against a loved one’s privacy and dignity concerns. There are many online forums that discuss how others have made that decision. Forums and aging care websites are easily found using an internet search. A useful fact sheet on how to balance privacy and protection is published by a long-term care ombudsman organization online:

If you see evidence that your loved one has been injured or neglected at a nursing home facility, you can contact that facility’s ombudsman to lodge a complaint. At the same time, you can also contact an attorney with experience in litigating elder care injuries and neglect. Bailey & Oliver Law Firm offers experience in this area and can be reached by calling (479) 202-5200.